Solar buff’s power bill is just $7 a month

… and that’s with the A/C running!

At first glance, Sandy and Denise Petit’s quiet Des Allemands home on Grand Bayou Road may not seem like anything out of the ordinary.It fits well with the other houses on the spacious block. Denise and Sandy keep the greens and trees well manicured.

And the solar and wind powered equipment Sandy has installed over the last 23 years has helped them enjoy an electric bill that rarely, if ever, exceeds the minimum monthly charge for electricity. Right now, that‘s about $7.

“I got an electric bill in the 1980’s that exceeded $100,” Sandy said.

“I decided right then and there that I would never hit another $100 electric bill.”

It was in 1984 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Sandy first got a glance at the solar panels that would change the way he looked at his electric bill, and electricity in general, forever.

After witnessing a solar power display at the CES, he and Denise took the plunge and invested $5,000 in to their first set of photovoltaic cells that actually powered the trailer the couple stayed in at the time.

Since then, Sandy said they have invested nearly $20,000 on renewable energy equipment, and they agree it’s the best investment either one has ever made.

The two designed their house with solar and wind as the two main components to provide power throughout the home, which is the best way to go about it, Sandy said.

Currently the Petit’s main source for solar power comes from a ground mounted photovoltaic system in the rear of the home that uses four 120 Kyocera brand cells and 16 60 watt Solarex brand cells.

The cells absorb solar power which is used throughout the home. The excess is then stored into Interstate 6-volt batteries, which resemble a large car battery.

When fully charged they can provide three days of backup power.

A necessity is what the backup proved to be for the Petit’s neighbors and family who had stayed during Hurricane Katrina and were one of the very few in the southeast who had lights and a working refrigerator.

The house is also lined with low voltage fluorescent lighting and fans that keep the electricity usage down while not forcing the occupants to sacrifice any of the luxuries we consider a necessity in Louisiana, such as a cool house in the summer.

While they still have a conventional air conditioning system throughout the house, Sandy has been tinkering with geothermal alternatives. He dug a 100 foot deep well that uses a propane fired engine, a dc generator and a R134A refrigerant compressor that provides cool air through a continuous running fan and pump that only requires a one 60 watt solar panel for power.

The system is more useful during the early and late spring months, but eventually the couple hope to invest in a solar powered air conditioner.

The Petits would agree their investment into solar power has been worth its weight in gold, which brings up the question of why more people don’t use renewable energy as they do. As an experienced electronics technician who has worked for many areas in the field on his own and with the St. Charles School System, Sandy said the technology is a bit beyond what the average person can and is willing to install and maintain.

“The more complicated it is, the less people want to fool with it,” he said.


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